There is an ancient Chinese story that goes like this:
“There was a family of young and old porcupines who lived within their nest together. They would come and go, sometimes alone, sometimes as a group. Then the weather became colder as winter drew near and they all returned to the nest. They soon realized that they were cold when they sat apart so it was decided that they should cuddle together to keep warm. So, one by one they came together, getting closer and closer. Soon all were very warm but it wasn’t long before they were too close and their quills were poking into one another causing much discomfort. Deciding this was not going to work, they all separated and went to their own space but soon they were very, very cold again and once more came together. Just as before they were not together very long before they started to become uncomfortable and each went their own way. And just like before they became cold again very quickly.
It was decided that they would approach one another with caution, taking note of how close they had to be in order to feel the warmth of each other. This time instead of pulling totally away when they felt the quills of another, they took small steps back, allowing just enough space between them to be comfortable but yet still able to feel the warm of each others bodies. Soon all were snug and warm.”
When you read this story does it put you in mind of relationships? Whether it is in a marriage, partnership, family or workplace, there is always situations just like the porcupines dilemma. They were happy with each other, loved to do things together and even realized the importance of helping and working together. However, their coming together began to cause discomfort to the whole group and so they split and went their own ways, only to realize they needed each other. It took many attempts to come to an understanding about how to work together before it finally worked out.
Often people jump to the conclusion if a partner, friend or family member doesn’t want to spend all their time with them, they must not love them. They go into defensive mode instead of looking for ways to allow each of them their space and together time. By finding mutual ground, all the needs are met. Its in this discovery that we also find ourselves. To be alone is not the same as being lonely. At first it may feel like that but really we are just going through the process of discovering our true self, gaining confidence in who we are, and setting our boundaries.
Not to be granted our space or to deprive another of theirs is to move from a loving feeling to a sense of smothering and can often lead to harsh words, bruised egos and complete separation. What are some ways that we can be aware of these situations and take actions to keep a good relationship without losing ourselves? Perhaps just reminding ourselves that:
- Children grow and need to discover for themselves who they are, their own dreams and aspirations and not feel that they must live out the parents’ dreams.
- Friends may be with you all your life through thick and thin or only for a season. Accept and be grateful for those who have come into your life when they did and let them go or you go when the time comes.
- Even between life partners, each is on their own journey. Allow each other time to be alone, discover their own joy and space. It is wonderful when you can share the same interests but not a sign of failure if you don’t. Rather if you talk about your experiences with each other and allow yourself to feel happy for their discovery and they with yours that is enough.
- You are born into a family and we love them but we don’t always have to spend every moment with them or in some cases even like what they do. Again, we are all on our journey and as a family we each are playing a part in each others lives. We chose to be here at this time together, so what is the family lesson we are to learn?
- Discovering how close you can get before the quills begin to poke you takes a lot of patience, practice and time. Don’t give up too quickly and take the time to find that fine line of the comfort zone.
- Forgiveness will most likely play a big part it finding each other’s space. It seems we don’t know how close we can get until we have gone too far and have to retreat. Too often someone gets hurt and fences will need to be mended before you attempt to get together again.
- Doing the same thing and saying the same thing over and over again will only create the same results. Are the results you are receiving not the ones you want or ones you are comfortable with? Perhaps you need to go at things in a new way.
Just like the porcupines we can find a way to work things out IF we all work at it together. If you are unhappy in the situation chances are others are as well but just become so use to doing things the same way over and over again that they do not see the problem nor do they want to do anything about it. In all of life’s situations, if you are feeling poked and prodded, smothered and joyless, it is definitely time to rediscover yourself in your own space.